When a selfish prince is turned into a brutish beast he is confined to his dark and dismal castle, shunned and forgotten by everyone else. Not far away Belle lives in the village of Villeneuve. She is different. She is not like the folks in her town, in particular she loves reading and plays and stories. She is romantic, gentle and sensitive, and the other folks don’t get her. Especially not Gaston, who is a bullish admirer who won’t take no for an answer. He is just not her type, but then most folks in the town are not her type. When Belle’s father is kidnapped by the Beast, Belle immediately goes looking for him, and sets him free by swapping places with him. The Beast has a secret though, if he can find someone who will love him before the last petal drops from a rose in his castle, he will be freed from the curse. Will Belle be the one to save him? If he falls for her will she dare to love him back?
Appearances can be deceptive. The Beast is not all he appears, neither is the ‘charming’ Gaston. One pretends to look for love, the other is really desperate for it. Belle has the eyes to see beyond the swaggering charm of Gaston and the brutal bulk of the Beast. She is not fooled.
This is an incredibly topical film in an age of airbrushing and the race to continue appearing young. We value appearances more than ever, and can be tempted to judge by the outward, rather than inner qualities. A few years ago I heard a model speaking in a radio interview and she mentioned a time when she was flicking through a magazine and saw a picture of a model and thought I wish I looked like that, then she looked closer and saw it was her! But technology had tweaked her a little. On Facebook and Instagram we want to look our best. And it’s easier than in real life. Then along comes this film, reminding us that the outward can be very deceptive. I once heard of someone who visited the extraordinary Mother Theresa of Calcutta, as he was waiting for her to meet him a cleaning lady shuffled into the room. It took him a few moments to realise – it was Mother Theresa!
Thankfully God too sees beyond our fickle fronts and bluster, the faces we put out there and the personas we adopt for the sake of others. I recall, years ago, seeing a little film called In the Bin in which a man had a cupboard full of masks he put on for the various aspects of his life. A mask for work, a mask for the secretary, a mask for social occasions. Then an unusual dustbin man invaded his life, opened his cupboard and threw all his masks away. This is a terrifying prospect really, we need to have our fronts and covers, we have to be careful about how much we show others. Jesus saw beyond the facade of his disciples, they were full of bluster, often bantering about who was the greatest, coolest, smartest etc. But Jesus saw beyond their froth. When he looked at the impetuous Peter he saw potential, he saw a reliable rock; when confronted by the swagger of James and John he saw sons of thunder, men who could be loud about the kind of things that really mattered. On Easter Sunday morning, freshly returned from the world of the dead, he saw Mary’s heartbreak and realised she could be one of the greatest witnesses of all time.